The Happiness Industry

How Government and Big Businesses Manipulate Your Moods for Profit

by William Davies {1} / Verso Books {2}

Alternet (May 21 2015)

The following is an excerpt from William Davies’ new book, The Happiness Industry: How the Governmen and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being {3} (Verso Books, 2015):

Since the 1960s, Western economies have been afflicted by an acute problem in which they depend more and more on our psychological and emotional engagement (be it with work, with brands, with our own health and well-being) while finding it increasingly hard to sustain this. Forms of private disengagement, often manifest as depression and psychosomatic illnesses, do not only register in the suffering experienced by the individual; they are increasingly problematic for policy-makers and managers, becoming accounted for economically.

Yet evidence from social epidemiology paints a worrying picture of how unhappiness and depression are concentrated in highly unequal societies, with strongly materialist, competitive values. Workplaces put a growing emphasis on community and psychological commitment, but against longer-term economic trends towards atomization and insecurity. We have an economic model which mitigates against precisely the psychological attributes it depends upon.

In this more general and historical sense, then, governments and businesses ‘created the problems that they are now trying to solve’. Happiness science has achieved the influence it has because it promises to provide the longed-for solution. First of all, happiness economists are able to put a monetary price on the problem of misery and alienation. The opinion-polling company Gallup, for example, has estimated that unhappiness of employees costs the US economy $500 billion a year in lost productivity, lost tax receipts and health-care costs. This allows our emotions and well-being to be brought within broader calculations of economic efficiency. Positive psychology and associated techniques then play a key role in helping to restore people’s energy and drive. The hope is that a fundamental flaw in our current political economy may be surmounted, without confronting any serious political-economic questions.

Psychology is very often how societies avoid looking in the mirror. The second structural reason for the surging interest in happiness is somewhat more disturbing, and concerns technology. Until relatively recently, most scientific attempts to know or manipulate how someone else was feeling occurred within formally identifiable institutions, such as psychology laboratories, hospitals, workplaces, focus groups, or some such. This is no longer the case. In July 2014, Facebook published an academic paper containing details of how it had successfully altered hundreds of thousands of its users’ moods, by manipulating their news feeds. There was an outcry that this had been done in a clandestine fashion. But as the dust settled, the anger turned to anxiety: would Facebook bother to publish such a paper in future, or just get on with the experiment anyway and keep the results to themselves?

Monitoring our mood and feelings is becoming a function of our physical environment. In 2014, British Airways trialled a ‘happiness blanket’, which represents passenger contentment through neural monitoring. As the passenger becomes more relaxed, the blanket turns from red to blue, indicating to the airline staff that they are being well looked after. A range of consumer technologies are now on the market for measuring and analyzing well-being, from wristwatches, to smartphones, to Vessyl, a ‘smart’ cup which monitors your liquid intake in terms of its health effects. One of the foundational neoliberal arguments in favor of the market was that it served as a vast sensory device, capturing millions of individual desires, opinions and values, and converting these into prices. It is possible that we are on the cusp of a new post-neoliberal era in which the market is no longer the primary tool for this capture of mass sentiment. Once happiness monitoring tools flood our everyday!
lives, ot
her ways of quantifying feelings in real time are emerging that can extend even further into our lives than markets.

Concerns about privacy have traditionally seen it as something which needs to be balanced against security. But today, we have to confront the fact that a considerable amount of surveillance occurs to increase our health, happiness, satisfaction or sensory pleasures. Regardless of the motives behind this, if we believe that there are limits to how much of our lives should be expertly administered, then there must also be limits to how much psychological and physical positivity we should aim for. Any critique of ubiquitous surveillance must now include a critique of the maximization of well-being, even at the risk of being less healthy, happy and wealthy.

To understand these trends as historical and sociological does not in itself indicate how they might be resisted or averted. But it does have one great liberating benefit of diverting our critical attention outward upon the world, and not inward upon our feelings, brains or behavior. It is often said that depression is ‘anger turned inwards’. In many ways, happiness science is ‘critique turned inwards’, despite all of the appeals by positive psychologists to ‘notice’ the world around us. The relentless fascination with quantities of subjective feeling can only possibly divert critical attention away from broader political and economic problems. Rather than seek to alter our feelings, now would be a good time to take what we’ve turned inwards, and attempt to direct it back out again. One way to start would be by turning a skeptical eye upon the history of happiness measurement itself.

Links:

{1} http://www.alternet.org/authors/william-davies

{2} http://www.versobooks.com

{3} http://www.versobooks.com/books/1901-the-happiness-industry

http://www.alternet.org/books/happiness-industry-how-government-and-big-businesses-manipulate-your-moods-profit

Categories: Uncategorized

The Japanese Pivot

by Fritzmorgen

Translated from Russian by J Hawk

http://fortruss.blogspot.jp (May 23 2015)

Will Japan agree to drop its claims on the South Kurile islands for the sake of signing a peace treaty with Russia? Even a couple of years ago I would have said with certainty that it’s not possible, and that the Japanese will continue to cover our islands to the last.

Let’s recall some history. Japan attacked Russia in 1904 in a not very nice way and after the 1905 peace received from us the southern half of the Sakhalin Island and a few other islands. The Japanese did not celebrate for very long: upon the end of World War Two Russia took back its territory. Japan took the loss of what they stole rather calmly. During the Khrushchev era they even tried to reach a peace agreement in order to affirm their losses and turn a new leaf in its relations with Russia, the US however vetoed the proposed treaty.

http://ruxpert.ru/Территориальные_споры_России

I’ll add that we did not exactly twist Japan’s arms. The two southern islands, Kunashir and Iturup, are vital to us since they sit astride a never freezing waterway to Vladivostok. The small Kurile range, which are not as valuable to us, Khrushchev was willing to give up in order to end the conflict.
However, the status quo also satisfied both sides. We had our ice free passage to Vladivostok and de-facto controlled the islands, while the Japanese were not concerned by the absence of a peace treaty because they understood Russia was not about to attack them. The half-hearted negotiations of the “give us the islands – no we won’t” could have continued for decades … if it weren’t for the fact that the star-spangled collossus is now sporting cracks visible to the naked eye.

The bomb surfaced in the middle of the week. Japan suddenly said that it is inviting Vladimir Vladimirovich for a visit, and not just for the sake of small talk but … to conclude a peace treaty and resolve the territorial issue:

http://www.interfax.ru/world/442616

Russia’s position has not changed – we are not prepared to give the islands to the Japanese in exchange for a peace treaty: the signing of that document is not so important to us that we would make territorial concessions. Therefore we can carefully conclude that Japan’s position has changed. It may be that Japan decided to sign the peace treaty on Russia’s terms and finally part with the islands which were under its control for a few decades of the 20th century.

The gravity of what’s happening can be judged by the US reaction. Shortly after the unexpected Japanese announcement a relevant Assistant Secretary of State gathered journalist and told them that Japan should not deal with Russia, because Russia is guilty and should be punished:

http://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/news/2015/05/22/gosdep-ssha-yaponii-ne-stoit-vesti-dela-s-rossiei-kak-obichno

What is more, George Soros woke up and in so many words said that China is scheming to attack Japan, which is only being kept safe from the hordes of Chinese occupiers by the brave US Marines:

http://aftershock.su/?q=node/309880

How are we to interpret all this? What is happening, and why are the Japanese acting as if they intend to make, for no apparent reason, an unacceptably generous gesture toward Russia?

Let’s recall history again, this time of World War Two. Japan bravely fought against the US on the Pacific front but in final account suffered a tremendous defeat which was underscored by the US atomic strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’ll note that the Japanese were not exactly playing nice either during the war. The Japanese military acted with such brutality that they eclipsed even the most odious fascist criminals. Interested individuals should search the net for, for example, “Unit 731″ or read the novel “Playing Go”. Samurai fearlessness was a double-edged sword: they were not only indifferent to their own suffering, but to the pain of others as well.

Therefore ultimately Japan fell to the US and … made a very bold move. They acknowledged themselves to be completely defeated and became the most faithful servants of the US. They fulfilled all of the US conditions, forgave them for nuclear bombardments, gave up on having a military and found a secure spot for themselves in the US world order on the terms of favorite colony, acting for a while as if it’s not the US and USSR who fought against Japan, but rather US and Japan who fought against USSR.

We know that the tactic worked. The tiny Japan made an economic leap forward and became the world’s second economy, allowing itself to fall to the fourth place due to the rise of Japan (sic: China?) and India only recently. Granted, in the last couple of decades Japan’s economy has been barely ticking under the crushing US colonial ceiling, but the defeated Japan managed to extract far more benefits from its defeat than anyone could have predicted in the distant 1945.

We should also understand that the US were able to subordinate Japan with their nukes but not domesticate it. The Japanese are not savages from US comic books who are happy to kiss the hand of their white master. The Japanese elites remember well all of that “democracy” which the US inflicted on them before, during, and after World War Two.

Now the US main enemies are China and Russia, but mainly China. Japan is conveniently located to serve as a sledgehammer against China: in other words, to start a war with China that gives the US [the excuse] to use its nuclear club on China or at the very least seriously weaken it by a major war. At the same time, the US is not in the least concerned about what happens to the hammer, just as they are not concerned about what happens to their other combat implement, Ukraine.

Therefore, from the point of view of cold-blooded Japanese, now is the time to try to escape from the ill tyrant. Let me say again that there is no possibility of a genuine friendship between the US and Japan: the Japanese understand perfectly well they were defeated and they view the Americans as occupiers.

Cooperation with China is, from Japan’s perspective, more preferable to continuing as America’s colony. Japan has technologies and a highly developed industry. If the Japanese convincingly apologize before the Chinese for the Rape of Nanking and other crimes of that era, if they resolve their territorial disputes with China, the PRC will be happy to establish a strong partnership with Japan.

But what can protect Japan from jilted America’s anger? Obviously, only Russia. Which can extend its nuclear umbrella over Japan, should it feel the need. Therefore now is the time to make a bold move: acknowledge the islands to be part of Russia and join Russia as a junior partner.

The potential cooperation between Japan and Russia looks even more promising than possible cooperation between Japan and China. Apart from the nuclear umbrella, we can help Japan with hydrocarbons it so badly needs by building a Power of Siberia extension to Japan. Access to Russian gas would allow Japan to greatly reduce its production costs.

There’s still the question of the impossibly large national debt which is currently pulling Japan’s economy to the bottom. However, that problem can be solved Japanese-style. It would be enough for the government to address the nation: “Yamato is in danger, we need to unite in the face of adversity”. Then default, hyperinflation, debt nullification and … inevitable economic take-off.

Who’s afraid of default?

Default terrifies those who have a trade deficit. Those who buy more than sell. In the event of default, they have nothing with which to cover the difference between imports and exports, which means they have to sharply reduce imports which then leads to catastrophic economic consequences.

But countries with a trade surplus – and Japan has one even right now, in spite of temporary energy problems – don’t need credits nearly as much. Japan enjoys a continual influx of money from its foreign economic activity.

Right now Japan is half-bankrupt because the US is sucking out all of its financial juices, forcing them to buy their junk-status government bonds. If Japan manages to free itself from this honorable duty, it will quickly grow rich. What’s more, within a year of yen devaluation the country will undergo a devaluation euphoria: the cost of manufacturing will drop sharply and Japanese goods will become even more competitive.

If you add to this cheap Russian gas, we’ll see that after trading the status of US colony for that of Russian and Chinese junior partner, Japan will be able to repeat the economic miracle of the 1960s.

This scenario is beneficial to both Japan and Russia. And not only because of the peace treaty. There are more important reasons for us to help Japan free itself.

Already today Japan is trying to buy oil for yen – obtaining full independence would allow it to reject dollars altogether. The loss of a major colony and the subsequent narrowing of the dollar space would place the US in such a difficult situation that our US friends and partners would have far less eagerness to do stupid things close to Russia’s borders.

On the other hand, our army and our hydrocarbons will become so important to the defenseless Japan that we can count not only on a long-term relationship but also on Japanese help to expand domestic machine tool production.

What is more, we are nudging Japan in that direction. Sergey Naryshkin said a couple of days ago said that nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I quote, “to this day did not receive appropriate evaluation on the international level”.

http://russian.rt.com/inotv/2015-05-21/Mainichi-V-YAponii-Narishkin-udaril

This way we are giving Japan yet another reason to opt for independence from the US – arrogant Americans still think they are the only superpower on the planet and don’t intend to apologize for anything.

It’s self evident that it would be too soon to write off Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam may be ill, but is still quite strong and clever. But there is one more reason which allows Japan to hope for a successful escape. The US is entering into its election cycle – the US elites are becoming absorbed by the upcoming elections and are paying less attention to external irritants.

US presidential elections will take place in November 2016 – therefore Japan now has a window of opportunity of about a year. If Japan quickly establishes relations with Russia and China – or at least one of them – Washington, in all likelihood, will not be able to react adequately to the departure of the fattest pearl of its imperial crown.

http://fortruss.blogspot.jp/2015/05/the-japanese-pivot.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Russia Turkey and the New Greek Sirtaki

by F William Engdahl

New Eastern Outlook (May 20 2015)

The European Union has an uncanny knack for shooting itself in the foot these days. Under strong pressure from a Russo-phobic Washington administration and various Russo-phobic EU governments, Brussels last year decided to take steps to block the bilateral agreements between Russia’s state Gazprom and EU countries such as Greece and Bulgaria to buy gas from a new Russian pipeline that was to have been called South Stream, the southern counterpart to the Gazprom-Germany North Stream line.

For the neoconservatives in the Obama State Department and Pentagon, that would have forged far too strong EU-Russia economic ties that would significantly weaken America’s ability to blackmail the EU. The EU Commission is brazenly violating all legal precepts by trying to enforce, retroactively, new laws that they claim Gazprom has violated. Further they forced the weak government of Bulgaria last year to back out of their Gazprom contract.

Washington’s Russo-phobes were gloating as they fantasized about getting a nuclear deal with Russia’s ally Iran that could woo Teheran to double-cross Moscow and sell Iranian gas from South Pars, the world’s largest gas field, via another pipeline through to Iran’s city of Bazargan at the border with Turkey where it would transit Turkey on to Greece and Italy.

Unlike the failed US Nabucco gas project which lacked gas, the Persian Pipeline, were Iran to be foolish enough to let Washington control it, would have gas, lots of it to weaken Russia’s hold on EU gas markets that were previously supplied via Gazprom via older Ukraine pipelines.

Putin Calls EU Bluff

As we noted at the time last December, Russian President Vladimir Putin caught the EU by surprise when he announced cancellation of the South Stream Gazprom EU project during a visit in Turkey with President Erdogan. There Putin proposed instead an alternative that would pipe Russia’s gas through Turkey to the door of EU member Greece. There different EU states could “take it or leave it”. The advantage for Gazprom and Russia is that they would not be responsible for construction of the needed EU pipelines.

When he announced the decision, he stated bluntly,

If Europe doesn’t want to realize this, then it means it won’t be realized. We will redirect the flow of our energy resources to other regions of the world. We couldn’t get necessary permissions from Bulgaria, so we cannot continue with the project. We can’t make all the investment just to be stopped at the Bulgarian border. Of course, this is the choice of our friends in Europe.

South Stream would have provided secure delivery to southern EU countries including Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Croatia and also Serbia. It would avoid the current transit pipelines running through Ukraine.

Now less than six months later Russia and Turkey have completed the landmark deal to begin deliveries of Gazprom Russian gas via a new “Turkish Stream” pipeline into and across Turkey through a pipeline now in construction. Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller announced on May 7 that, “An agreement has been made on the beginning of exploitation and deliveries of [Russian] gas along the Turkish Stream in December 2016″. The statement came following Miller’s meeting earlier in the day with Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız. The new pipeline will travel through Turkey to a gas hub on the Turkish-Greek border for further distribution to European customers: http://sputniknews.com/business/20150507/1021823062.html#ixzz3ZTHaJl00.

A Geopolitical Cherry on Top

And only minutes after the successful Russia-Turkish agreement, Putin, reported to be a master chess player, made a master geopolitical chess move into the European Union disaster that is called the Eurozone.

Greek news outlet, Capital.gr, reported that the very same day Miller’s Turkey Gazprom deal was finalized, Putin had an apparently very cordial phone chat with Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras. After the talk, Putin’s office released a statement that Putin had told Tsipras that Russia would be willing to extend money to Greece in return for Greek participation in the Turkish Stream project into the EU. The Kremlin statement said, “In that context, the Russian side confirmed its willingness to consider the issue of extending financing to state and private companies that will cooperate in the project”.

In Tsipras’ April 8 meeting with Putin Russia denied it had made a deal on energy; that all changed on May 7 after Turkey finalized Turkish Stream

After Tsipras’ talks with Putin in Moscow on April 8, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, issued a denial of Der Spiegel reports that the two had come to an agreement in which Moscow would advance the cash-desperate Greek government with an immediate five billion euros cash advance from Russia based on expected future profits linked to the pipeline. The Greek energy minister said at the time that Athens would repay Moscow after 2019, when the pipeline is expected to start operating.

That was on April 8. Flash forward to May 7 and the finalization of the Russia-Turkish Stream deal, and it seems now that there is also a Russia-Greece deal to advance Athens the sizeable cash sum, just before Athens must come up with large sums to repay IMF and EU loans in order to get more senseless EU and ECB “support”. The difference was clearly the finalization of the Turkish Stream. Now EU bureaucrats in Brussels have new gas pains as Putin puts a Greek cherry atop Moscow’s Turkish geopolitical deal on gas.

If the Russia cash advance to Tsipras comes to pass, not only will Athens be able to dance a Sirtaki. This time it will be a dance in which the role of Zorba is played by a Russian, Vladimir Putin, not the Mexican, Anthony Quinn.

Wolfgang Schauble, Angela Merkel, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker all will have three options. They can decide to stand on the sidelines and clap to the sensuous rhythms of the new Sirtaki. They can join in the dance by refusing Washington blackmail on renewing EU economic sanctions against Russia. Or they can go on to boycott the dance and sink deeper into a new crisis of the Euro.

The ongoing panic selloff in German bond markets over recent days suggests it might be wise for the Berlin government to consider an entire new choreography for its European Grand Strategy. The old Atlantic Nato dance is rapidly becoming a Danse Macabre for Germany and for Europe. Putin’s Sirtaki would be far more fun for Europe and the world.

_____

F William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.

http://journal-neo.org/2015/05/20/russia-turkey-and-the-new-greek-sirtaki/

Categories: Uncategorized

BRICS Trample US in South America

by Pepe Escobar

RT.com / Op-Edge (May 22 2015)

It started in April with a rash of deals between Argentina and Russia during President Cristina Kirchner’s visit to Moscow.

And it continues with a $53 billion investment bang as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Brazil during the first stop of yet another South American commercial offensive –  complete with a sweet metaphor: Li riding on a made in China subway train that will ply a new metro line in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the 2016 Olympics.

Where is the US in all this? Nowhere; little by little, yet inexorably, BRICS members China –  and in a smaller measure, Russia – have been no less than restructuring commerce and infrastructure all across Latin America.

Countless Chinese commercial missions have been plying these shores non-stop, much as the US did between World War One and Two. In a key meeting in January with Latin American business leaders, President Xi Jinping promised to channel $250 billion for infrastructure projects in the next ten years.

Top infrastructure projects in Latin America are all being financed by Chinese capital –  except the Mariel port in Cuba, whose financing comes from Brazil’s BNDES and whose operation will be managed by Singaporean port operator PSA International Pte Ltd. Construction of the Nicaragua canal –  bigger, wider and deeper than Panama’s – started last year by a Hong Kong firm, to be finished by 2019. Argentina, for its part, clinched a $4.7 billion Chinese deal for the construction of two hydroelectric dams in Patagonia.

Among the 35 deals clinched during Li’s visit to Brazil, there was financing worth $7 billion for Brazil’s oil giant Petrobras; 22 Brazilian Embraer commercial jets to be sold to Tianjin Airlines for $1.3 billion; and a raft of agreements involving top iron ore producer Vale. Chinese investment might go some way into overhauling Brazil’s appalling network of roads, railways and ports; airports are in slightly better condition due to upgrades prior to the World Cup last year.

The star of the whole show is undoubtedly the proposed $30 billion, 3,500 kilometer-long, Atlantic-Pacific mega-railway, that is slated to run from the Brazilian port of Santos to the Peruvian Pacific port of Ilo via Amazonia. Logistically, this is a must for Brazil, offering it a Pacific gateway. Winners will inevitably be commodity producers –  from iron ore to soya beans – exporting to Asia, mostly China.

The Atlantic-Pacific railway may be an extremely complex project –  involving everything from environmental and land rights issues to, crucially, the preference for Chinese firms every time Chinese banks deliberate on extending lines of credit. But this time, it’s a go. The usual suspects are – what else – worried: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/05/20/china-and-brazil-are-becoming-bffs-should-we-be-worried/

Watch the Geopolitics

Official Brazilian policy, since the Lula years, has been to attract top Chinese investment. China is Brazil’s top trading partner since 2009; it used to be the US. The trend started with food production, now it moves to investment in ports and railways, and the next stage will be technology transfer. The BRICS New Development Bank and the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), of which Brazil is a key founding member, will definitely be part of the picture.

The problem is this massive trade/commerce BRICS interplay is intersecting with a quite convoluted political process. The top three South American powers – Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, which also happen to be Mercosur members –  have been facing repeated “destabilization” attempts by the usual suspects, who routinely denounce the foreign policy of Presidents Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Kirchner and Nicolas Maduro and yearn for the good ol’ days of a dependent relationship with Washington.

With different degrees of complexity –  and internal strife – Brasilia, Buenos Aires and Caracas are all simultaneously facing plots against their institutional order. The usual suspects don’t even try to dissimulate their near total diplomatic distance from the South American Top Three.

Venezuela, under US sanctions, is considered a threat to US national security –  something that does not even qualify as a bad joke. Kirchner has been under relentless diplomatic assault –  not to mention US vulture funds targeting Argentina. And with Brasilia, relations are practically frozen since September 2013, when Rousseff suspended a visit to Washington in response to the NSA spying on Petrobras, and herself personally.

And that leads us to a crucial geostrategic issue –  so far unresolved.

NSA spying may have leaked sensitive information on purpose to destabilize the Brazilian development agenda –  which includes, in the case of Petrobras, the exploration of the largest oil deposits (the pre-salt) found so far in the young 21st century.

What is unraveling is so crucial because Brazil is the second-biggest economy in the Americas (after the US); it is the biggest Latin American commercial and financial power; it hosts the former second-biggest development bank in the world, BNDES, now overtaken by the BRICS bank; and it also hosts the biggest corporation in Latin America, Petrobras, also one of the world’s top energy giants.

The hardcore pressure against Petrobras comes essentially from US shareholders –  who act like the proverbial vultures, bent on bleeding the company and profit from it, allied with lobbyists who abhor Petrobras’s status as the priority explorer of the pre-salt deposits.

In a nutshell, Brazil is the last great sovereign frontier against unbounded hegemonic domination in the Americas. The Empire of Chaos had to be annoyed.

Ride the Continental Wave

The constantly evolving strategic partnership of the BRICS nations has been met by Washington circles not only with incredulity but fear. It’s virtually impossible for Washington to do real damage to China –  but much “easier”, comparatively, in the case of Brazil or Russia. Even though Washington’s wrath targets essentially China –  which has dared to do deal after deal in the former “America’s backyard”.

Once again, the Chinese strategy –  as much as the Russian –  is to keep calm and carry a “win-win” profile. Xi Jinping met with Maduro in January to do –  what else –  deals. He met with Cristina Kirchner in February to do the same –  just as speculators were about to unleash another attack against the Argentine peso. Now there’s Li’s visit to South America.

Needless to say, trade between South America and China continues to boom. Argentina exports food and soya beans; Brazil the same, plus oil, minerals and timber; Colombia sells oil and minerals; Peru and Chile, copper, and iron; Venezuela sells oil; Bolivia, minerals. China exports mostly high-value-added manufactured products.

A key development to watch in the immediate future is the Transul project, which was first proposed at a BRICS conference last year in Rio. It boils down to a Brazil-China strategic alliance linking Brazilian industrial development to partial outsourcing of metals to China; as the Chinese increase their demand – they are building no less than thirty megalopolises up to 2030 –  that will be met by Brazilian or Sino-Brazilian companies. Beijing has finally given its seal of approval.

So the long-term Big Picture remains inexorable; BRICS and South American nations –  which converge in the Unasur (The Union of South American Nations) –  are betting on a multipolar world order, and a continental process of independence.

It’s easy to see how that is oceans away from a Monroe doctrine.

_____

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

http://rt.com/op-edge/261237-brics-us-south-america-russia/

Categories: Uncategorized

West’s Death Squad Strategy

How and why ISIS & Al-Qaeda became ‘shock troops’ of global powers

by Dan Glazebrook

RT.com / Op-Edge ​(May 23 2015)

Download video (23.76 MB)

Friday’s ISIS suicide bombings in Yemen and Saudi Arabia –  killing a total of at least 43 people –  is yet more bitter fruit of the policy pursued by Britain, the US and France and their Gulf allies for the past eight years.

This strategy –  of fostering violently sectarian anti-Shiite militias in order to destroy Syria and isolate Iran –  is itself but part of the West’s wider war against the entire global South by weakening any independent regional powers allied to the BRICs countries, and especially to Russia.

The strategy was first revealed as far back as 2007 in Seymour Hersh’s article “The Redirection” {1}, which revealed how Bush administration officials were working with the Saudis to channel billions of dollars to sectarian death squads whose role would be to “throw bombs … at Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran and at the Syrians”, in the memorable words of one US official.

More evidence of precisely how this strategy unfolded has since been revealed. Most recently, last Monday saw the release of hundreds of pages of formerly classified US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) documents {2} following a two year court battle in the US.

These documents showed that, far from being an unpredictable “bolt from the blue”, as the mainstream media tends to imply, the rise of ISIS was in fact both predicted and desired by the US and its allies as far back as 2012.

The DIA report, which was widely circulated amongst the various US military and security agencies at the time, noted:

There is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria, and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

Elsewhere, the “supporting powers to the opposition” are defined as “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey”.

In other words, a Salafist –  that is militantly anti-Shia –  “principality” was “exactly” what the West wanted as part of their war against not only Syria, but “Shia expansion” in Iraq as well. Indeed, it was specifically acknowledged that “ISI [the forerunner of ISIS] could also declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria”.

The precision of the declassified predictions is astounding. Not only was it predicted that the terrorist groups being supported by Washington and London in Syria would team up with those in Iraq to create an “Islamic State”, but the precise dimensions of this state were also spelt out: recognizing that “the Salafist[s], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria”. The report noted that the consequences of this for Iraq would be to “create the ideal atmosphere for AQI [Al Qaeda Iraq] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi”.

Mosul, don’t forget, was taken by ISIS in June 2014, and Ramadi fell earlier this week.

Recent months have seen the West and its regional allies massively stepping up their support for their anti-Shiite death squads. In late March, Saudi Arabia began its bombardment of Yemen following military gains made by the Houthi (Shiite) rebels in that country. The Houthis, the only effective force fighting Al Qaeda in the country, had taken key territories from them last November, and were subsequently threatening them in their remaining strongholds. This was when the Saudis began their bombardment, with US and British support, naturally, and, unsurprisingly, Al Qaeda have been the key beneficiary of this intervention, gaining a breathing space and regaining valuable lost territory, retaking the key port of Mukulla within a week of the commencement of the Saudi bombardment.

Al Qaeda have also been making gains in Syria, taking two major cities in Idlib province last month following a ramping up of military support from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. And of course, Britain has been leading the way for a renewed military intervention in Libya in the guise of a “war against people smuggling” that, as I have argued elsewhere {3}, will inevitably end up boosting the most vicious gangs involved in the trade, namely ISIS and Al Qaeda.

So why the sudden urgency on the part of the West and its allies to step up support for Al Qaeda et al now?

The answer lies in the increasing disgust at the activities of the death squads across the region. No longer perceived as the valiant freedom fighters they were depicted as in 2011, their role as shock troops for the West’s “divide and ruin” strategy, promising nothing but a future of ultra-violent trauma and ethnic cleansing, has become increasingly obvious. The period between mid-2013 and mid-2014 saw a significant turning of the tide against these groups.

It began in July 2013 with the ouster of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi following fears he was planning to send in the Egyptian army to aid the Syrian insurgency. New President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi put an end not only to that possibility, but to the flow of fighters from Egypt to Syria altogether. The West hoped to step in the following month with airstrikes against the Syrian government, but their attempts to ensure Iranian and Russian acquiescence in such a move came to nought and they were forced into a humiliating climbdown.

Then came the fall of Homs in May 2014, as Syrian government forces retook a key insurgent stronghold. The momentum was clearly with the government side; that is until ISIS sprang onto the scene –  and with them, a convenient pretext for a US-led intervention that had been ruled out just a year before.

Meanwhile, in Libya, the pro-death squad parties decisively lost elections to the first elected House of Representatives in June 2014. Their refusal to accept defeat led to a new chapter in the post-Nato Libyan disaster, as they set up a new rival government in Tripoli and waged war on the elected parliament. Yet following a massacre of Egyptians by ISIS in Libya in February of this year, Egypt sent its airforce in on the side of the Tobruk (elected) parliament; it is now, apparently, considering sending in ground troops.

Losing ground in Yemen, in Libya, in Egypt and in Syria, the West’s whole strategy for using armed Salafists as tools of destabilization was starting to unravel. Thank goodness, people in certain quarters must be thinking, for ISIS.

Links:

{1} http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection

{2} http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-defense-state-department-documents-reveal-obama-administration-knew-that-al-qaeda-terrorists-had-planned-benghazi-attack-10-days-in-advance/

{3} http://rt.com/op-edge/259685-eu-migrants-africa-military-action/

The original version of this article, at the last URL below, contains additional links to further information not included here.
_____

Dan Glazebrook is a political writer and author of Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis (2013).

Read more:

21 dead after suicide bomber strikes Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia, ISIS claims responsibility: http://rt.com/news/261141-bomber-saudi-arabia-prayers/

ISIS fighters enter ruins of ancient Palmyra after taking full control of city – reports:
http://rt.com/news/260677-isis-control-palmyra-syria/

http://rt.com/op-edge/261469-isis-suicide-bomb-yemen/

Categories: Uncategorized

Why the US is Finally Talking to Russia

by Pepe Escobar

Sputnik News (May 19 2015)

So a woman walks into a room … That’s how quite a few jokes usually start. In our case, self-appointed Queen of Nulandistan Victoria “F**k the EU” walks into a room in Moscow to talk to Russian deputy foreign ministers Sergei Ryabkov and Grigory Karasin.

A joke? Oh no; that really happened. Why?

Let’s start with the official reactions. Karasin qualified the talks as “fruitful”, while stressing Moscow does not approve of Washington becoming part of the Normandy-style (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) negotiations on Ukraine. Not after the relentless demonization not only of the Kremlin but also of Russia as a whole since the Maidan coup.

Ryabkov, for his part, made it known the current state of the US-Russia relationship remains, well, corrosive.

It’s crucial to remember the Queen of Nulandistan went to Moscow only after meeting with certified Washington vassal President Poroshenko and her own, hand-picked Prime Minister, “Yats”; and that was before accompanying Secretary of State John Kerry on the full regalia State Department trip to Sochi on May 12.


(c) Sputnik/ Vladimir Pesnya
Western Isolation of Moscow Helps Putin, Opens New Opportunities for Russia

The Minsk-2 agreement –  the actual product of the Normandy-style negotiations –  directly involved Berlin and Paris, who finally saw the realpolitik on the wall and were compelled to divert from Washington’s monomaniac antagonistic approach.

Inside the EU, chaos remains on the key subject of sanctions. The Baltics and Poland toe the “Russians are coming!” Cold War 2.0 hysteria line, while the adults in Brussels are represented by Italy, Greece, Spain and Hungary.

So Germany and France are already in deep trouble keeping the messy EU house in order. At the same time Berlin and Paris know nothing the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration pulls off will mollify Moscow to abandon its precise red lines.

Watch Those Red Lines

It’s crucial to notice that Crimea does not seem to be on the table anymore; it’s a fait accompli. But then there are those US “military trainers” who have been deployed to western Ukraine only for a “six-month mission” (historical reminder; this is how the Vietnam war started). For Moscow, expansion of this “mission” is an absolute red line.

And then there’s the ultimate red line; Nato expansion, which remains unabated in the Baltics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. That won’t stop; it’s part of Nato’s obsession in solidifying a new Iron Curtain from the Baltics to the Black Sea.

Thus, beyond all the talking, the next step to watch is whether the Obama administration will really refrain from weaponizing Kiev.

Ukraine for all practical purposes is now a massively indebted failed state turned into an IMF colony. The EU does not want it –  although Nato does. For Moscow, the –  ghastly –  show will only be over when Ukraine, with or without the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, is neutral, and not part of a Nato strategic threat.

I have examined the possibility that the Obama administration’s strategic shift towards talking instead of cursing/threatening may signify that the real Masters of the Universe have finally understood the emerging New (Silk) World Order is bound to leave them behind {1}.


(c) Flickr/ Palazzo Chigi
EU Should Not Return to Cold War Confrontation With Russia – Italian PM

President Putin knew that he was heading towards a major confrontation with the US after the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, the Georgian adventure, and Nato’s ceaseless expansion violating all those empty promises to Gorbachev.

The difference is that now –  and the Pentagon knows it –  Moscow has amassed up to 10,000 tactical nuclear weapons. In the –  apocalyptic  –  event of a war between Russia with Nato, the wet dream of many a US neo-con, these tactical nuclear weapons would knock out every commercial and military airfield of every Nato country in twenty minutes. That would leave no airfield for Nato combined air operations.

And then there’s the S-500 missile defense system, which can protect Russia against any form of Pentagon/Nato nuclear missile retaliation. No US offensive weapon, including Stealth bombers, could get through the S-500 maze, and the Pentagon also knows it.

Strategy? What Strategy?

The Dr Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski-style strategy has always been to lure Russia into another Afghanistan in Ukraine, leading to a collapse of the Russian economy with the Big Prize being a Western takeover of Russia’s oil and natural gas wealth, and by extension Central Asia’s. Ukrainians would be used as cannon fodder, as were Afghans since the 1980s Arab-Afghan jihad.

Yet the Obama administration overplayed its hand, and realpolitik now spells out the deepening of the Russia-China strategic partnership across the entire Eurasian land mass; Eurasia as a prospective, massive commercial emporium stretching from Beijing to Berlin, or from Shanghai to Saint Petersburg and beyond towards Rotterdam and Duisburg.

Without the exceptionalist obsession of some key Beltway factions, none of the elements of Cold War 2.0 would be in play, as Russia is a natural ally of the US in many fronts. That in itself reveals the state of “strategic thinking” by the current US administration.

Moscow, anyway, won’t be caught off-guard by the current, barely disguised, charm offensive, because Russian intelligence knows that may well veil a “Grand Chessboard”-style tactic of two steps back to regroup for a massive advance later.

Moreover, nothing has basically changed other than the original, dissuasive Cold War era MAD –  Mutually Assured Destruction –  doctrine being over.

The US still retains PGS (Prompt Global Strike) capability. Ukraine is just a detail. The real game-changer will happen when Russia is able to seal its whole territory, via the S-500s, against PGS. That will happen sooner than anyone thinks. And that’s why the real Masters of the Universe –  via their emissaries –  feel compelled to talk.

Link: {1} http://atimes.com/2015/05/u-s-wakes-up-to-new-silk-world-order/

_____

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

Related:

http://sputniknews.com/politics/20150518/1022280097.html

http://sputniknews.com/russia/20150512/1022038389.html

http://sputniknews.com/russia/20150511/1021984186.html

http://sputniknews.com/politics/20150427/1021448192.html

http://sputniknews.com/columnists/20150519/1022322068.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Why Race is the Main Reason …

… the Murderous Bloodbath in Waco Was Handled with Velvet Gloves

by Shaun King

Daily Kos (May 18 2015)

http://images.dailykos.com/images/143953/large/Screen_Shot_2015-05-18_at_4.17.23_PM.png?1431980304

http://crooksandliars.com/2015/05/media-and-police-double-standard-wide

Nine people shot to death at a family restaurant.

Dozens of others stabbed, beaten, and seriously injured.

Over 100 guns recovered.

Sounds like one of the worst crimes in modern American history, right?

Then why do the men above look like they are tailgating? Smoking cigarettes, others using their cell phones, nobody in the world could guess that these men were even associated with such a horrible crime.

Instead, you’d think the man below was involved.

http://images.dailykos.com/images/143954/large/Screen_Shot_2015-05-18_at_4.15.09_PM.png?1431980421

Nah. He refused to get on the sidewalk during a curfew in Baltimore. Sprayed in the face with pepper spray, the officers even seemed to enjoy brutalizing him. See the smile?

It’s not a harsh comparison at all.

In Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, and around the country, protestors were actually protesting against violence and were often treated as if they were murderers.

In Waco, Texas, when one of the deadliest, bloodiest, most violent rampages in modern America happened, the National Guard wasn’t called in, the perpetrators weren’t beaten or pepper-sprayed, nobody was hogtied or humiliated, the dogs weren’t brought out to intimidate anyone. Hell, they didn’t even handcuff them or take their phones away. Instead, they just sat them down on the sidewalk peacefully.

Time after time, all around the country, protestors – particularly African-American protestors – have been brutalized by police. That’s why, in part, it is so disturbing to see men, apparently all white men, who actually murdered and maimed others, treated with so much dignity and deference.

Americans don’t really despise violence, even murder. That’s why the Sons of Anarchy, a popular (and extremely violent) television show covering motorcycle gangs, exploded in popularity and why this bloodbath in Waco is being called “the real life Sons of Anarchy” all over the world: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/05/18/how-the-bandidos-became-americas-most-feared-biker-gang/

Notice, though, how few images of dead bodies in Waco are being shown in the media. Notice the lack of dialogue about bad parenting or absentee fathers. Notice how the men aren’t really being called thugs – even though everything about them fits this definition.

It’s a race thing and if you don’t see it, you’re either blind or lying.

https://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/05/18/1385588/-Why-race-is-the-main-reason-the-murderous-bloodbath-in-Waco-was-romanticized-w-velvet-gloves?detail=emailclassic

Categories: Uncategorized
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